I gather that CBS management still hasn’t decided how Bernard Goldberg went bad, or if he was a mole planted among its correspondents, or what the hell happened to Bernie, who for years and years was one of its dray-horse TV correspondents, grinding out the pap with the rest and the best. From the CBS point of view, all of a sudden Bernie went screwy, hitched up with the homophobes and other rightie-tighties.
What happened was that out of the blue, dependable, team-playing Bernie published an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal , the thrust of which was that the TV networks and the likes of The New York Times are tilted leftward and suffused with a liberal bias. To Dan Rather at CBS and, apparently, to the liberal panjandrums at the other networks, Bernie had pulled a 9/11 on them, a sneak attack, a stab in the back.
Bernie says he’d been begging his colleagues and bosses for years to face up to the fact that, politically speaking, they were operating an electronic, left-leaning Tower of Pisa. It was, Bernie avers, only after years of having people look at him and say, “What, me lefty?” that Bernie went public.
To the readers of The Wall Street Journal , it could not have come as new news that the three old-line networks were stocked with fuzzy-headed liberals. Nonetheless, from the time (February 1996) of the Journal article forward, Bernie began switching careers from TV reporter to controversialist, culminating in his book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News . Incidentally, there is another well-recommended book out on this topic: Coloring the News , by William McGowan. The McGowan book, a more in-depth and sober look at bias, contains some doozies of examples of stories so disturbing to the liberal gestalt that The Times solved the problem by simply not covering them, and, indeed, when it comes to bias, the most underhanded form is silence.
The fact of liberal media bias drives a few people, of whom Bernie is evidently one, absolutely up the wall and down the other side, but I think for many others it is just something you live with. If you’re smart, you know it’s there and you view or read accordingly. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, you are not exposing liberal bias to the light of day for the first time. Indeed, television itself acknowledges it and uses it to provide viewers with some marvelous entertainment. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes in the cable series Beggars and Choosers , you’ll do yourself a favor by dialing on this funny, funny comedy built around life in the West Coast headquarters of a major television network. You will see the caving in to screech-owl feminism, the ass-kissing of ethnic-minority-rights racketeers (which leads them to create a new show called, I think, The Woos of Weehawken ), the kowtowing to preposterous claims of political homosexuality, the whole nine yards of craven, cotton-headed, automatic reflex liberalism. The show was conceived by the late Brandon Tartikoff, a television executive who stood out from his peers not only by virtue of his talents but by virtue of his virtue.
If Bernie were to prevail and the liberal bias were to be expunged from network news, we would not be measurably better off, because biased news is probably better than no news and no news is most of what those programs serve up. Even the right-wing Fox News Channel operation is irritatingly short on information, biased or otherwise. Like millions of others, I stopped watching the major broadcast networks’ news years ago. Having a dish, I am lucky enough to get the BBC in America and Canadian news channels, where they keep the lifestyle blather, the inane human-interest stories and the celebrity interviews second to imparting information.
The billionaires who own and run the TV networks aren’t liberals and don’t seem to be much concerned about bias on their airwaves, doubtless because whatever bias there is, when it comes to the important stuff like pushing Wall Street and a unilateral foreign policy, it’s a bias they agree with. Bernie would have served the cause better if he’d tried to place the bias question within the larger one of the concentration of media ownership. The Jan. 7-14 issue of The Nation describes how so few control so much. The issue comes replete with a chart showing the 10 largest media companies who own popular American culture. But count your blessings. In Italy there are three private television networks and one major government network. The three private ones are owned by Silvio Berlusconi, and guess what? He’s the prime minister, so maybe he has a little influence over the government network also.
When Henry Luce, the man who invented Time , Life , Fortune , Sports Illustrated , etc., and a cast-iron right-winger, was asked why he hired so many lefties, he supposedly said that Republicans can’t write. That was many years ago. Today, the lefties can’t write either. The ones you see on a channel like CNN are dribble heads. The news girls–and I use the word advisedly–are very cute, and I presume the news boys are the same to female eyes, but their mouths are full of malapropisms and their heads of synthetic fiber. When you hire for looks, that’s what you get.
If you complain about anything to a media executive, which you shouldn’t bother to do, you will get one of two answers: 1) Don’t shoot the messenger, and 2) We get attacked by both the left and the right, so we must be doing something right. Oh, yeah?
Left, right and center, people by the tens of millions have stopped watching network news. And that may be a healthy thing if it betokens skepticism, disbelief and an effort to find out for one’s self.